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College Basketball: 10 Biggest Surprises in Nonconference Play

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2012

College Basketball: 10 Biggest Surprises in Nonconference Play

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    With just a week left in nonconference play, it is time to reminisce about the greatest moments from the past two months in college basketball. 

    There have been plenty of upsets of ranked teams and teams who have sprung up out of nowhere to reach the national conversation. 

    We have learned plenty about teams across the nation over the past two months, but this is only the beginning heading into 2013.

    Before all the glitz and glamour of conference play begins, here is a look back at the 10 biggest surprises from nonconference play. 

Chaminade Takes Down Texas

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    This year's version of the Maui Invitational was full of unexpected moments. 

    The unpredictability of the tournament began on its first night when local team, Chaminade, defeated Texas. 

    The Silverswords were dominant in the second half in front of their home crowd in Maui to take down the mighty Longhorns. 

    DeAndre Haskins starred for the Silverswords in the 86-73 win with 32 points. 

Cal Poly Wins at Pauley Pavilion

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    Continuing with the theme of upsets, Cal Poly defeated UCLA on November 25 at Pauley Pavilion. 

    The game was supposed to be the coronation of the newly-eligible star freshman Shabazz Muhammad, but instead it in turned into a moment of utter humiliation.

    While this upset flew under the radar of the casual fans, the loss by the Bruins was noted by the voters in the AP poll, who dropped the Bruins out of the rankings the next day. 

Kentucky's Group of Freshmen Fail Early Tests

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    Coming off of an astounding season where Kentucky won a national championship and had six players chosen in the NBA Draft, there were plenty of unknowns surrounding the new look of the Wildcats. 

    The young roster filled with star recruits, led by Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress, passed their first test against Maryland in the first game of the season, but they could not conquer three other big programs.

    After losing to Duke in their second game, John Calipari's team looked to be turning things around before losing two straight games to Notre Dame and Baylor. 

    The two consecutive losses saw the Wildcats fall out of the AP Top 25, a list that they have failed to crack since. 

    The Wildcats' final nonconference test comes next Saturday when they square off with in-state rivals, Louisville. 

The Rise to Stardom for Indiana's Supporting Cast

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    Going into the season, the only thing that was certain about the Indiana Hoosiers was that Cody Zeller would be a star. 

    Over their first 11 games, the Hoosiers have developed into a team who can hit opponents from all angles.

    The most impressive of Indiana's supporting cast has been Victor Oladipo, who has scored in double digits in nine games this season. 

    Adding to the threat of Oladipo is the three-point shooting of senior Jordan Hulls and junior sixth man Will Sheehey. 

    Freshman Yogi Farrell has developed into a quality starting point guard and two other freshman, Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin, are now eligible and ready to provide for the Hoosiers in Big Ten play. 

Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini

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    The biggest surprise team of the season has been the Illinois Fighting Illini. 

    The Illini, under first-year coach John Groce, won the Maui Invitational with wins over USC, Chaminade and Butler. 

    The miraculous run of the Illini continued two weeks ago when they traveled to Spokane and won on the road against a strong Gonzaga team. 

    The star of the team has been senior guard Brandon Paul, who scored a season-high 35 points in the big win over Gonzaga. 

    Paul has averaged 18.8 points per game with 20 points in five games, including the Gonzaga game. 

Butler Did It...Again

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    Butler has pulled off two big upsets in nonconference play over North Carolina and Indiana.

    Against the Tar Heels in Maui, the Bulldogs cruised to a 82-71 victory. 

    The legend of coach Brad Stevens grew exponentially last week when Butler took down in-state rivals Indiana in overtime. 

    Alex Barrow solidified a place in Butler history by making a jumper with five seconds left. 

    The Bulldogs will now go into their first season in the Atlantic 10, which will be one Stevens' biggest tests as Butler's head coach. 

The Myck Kabongo Saga

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    For the first two months of the season, the Texas Longhorns were caught in limbo as the NCAA failed to make a decision regarding the eligibility of sophomore guard Myck Kabongo. 

    The Longhorns finally received word from the NCAA on Wednesday night as Kabongo was ruled ineligible for the remainder of the season.

    Rick Barnes' team has suffered from the absence of its star sophomore, as it has failed to make an impression on the national scene. 

    The reputation of the Longhorns was restored somewhat on Wednesday when they defeated North Carolina, 85-67, in Austin. 

    A win on the road against Michigan State on Saturday will prove to the nation that the Longhorns are for real, but the real story surrounding the team all season will be the absence of Kabongo.

Wyoming Flies Under the Radar

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    Amongst all the hoopla surrounding the Mountain West this season, no one expected to include Wyoming in the conversation about one of the best mid-major conferences. 

    New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State all were on the national radar to begin the season, but the Cowboys have stolen the thunder from their three fellow Mountain West teams. 

    Larry Shyatt has guided his team to an 11-0 start in his second season as the Cowboys' head coach. 

    The biggest win of the season for the Cowboys came on the first of December when Wyoming took down Colorado at home, 76-69. 

    Shyatt's Cowboys could potentially go into their first big conference game with San Diego State on January 19 with a 16-0 record. 

Tubby Smith and Minnesota's Strong Start

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    Minnesota was an afterthought when it came to the preseason conversation about the Big Ten, but it has entered the conversation with an 11-1 start.

    The Gophers fell to Duke in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, but they battled back to win their two final games in the Bahamas against Memphis and Stanford. 

    Since their trip to the Bahamas, the Gophers have won five straight games, including a road victory over Florida State and a win in Los Angeles against USC. 

    Tubby Smith has turned the Minnesota program around, and although the Gophers may not be the Big Ten champion when March comes around, they will be an underrated team to watch in the final month of the season. 

Maryland Cruising After Kentucky Loss

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    Mark Turgeon's Maryland Terrapins gave Kentucky a strong fight in their first game of the season at the Barclays Center.

    After their 72-69 loss to the Wildcats, the Terrapins have had a string of nine consecutive wins, with sophomores Alex Len and Dez Wells being the star players during their winning streak. 

    In a weak ACC season, the Terrapins could easily finish in second place behind Duke or even surprise people with a conference title. 

     

    What do you think has been the biggest surprise in college basketball so far this season?

    Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter @JTansey90

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